The USC Trojans football program represent University of Southern California in the sport of American football. The Trojans compete in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the South Division of the Pac-12 Conference (Pac-12).
Formed in 1888, the program has over 830 wins and claims 11 consensus Division I Football National Championships. USC has had 13 undefeated seasons including 8 perfect seasons, and 39 conference championships. USC has produced 7 Heisman Trophy winners, 81 first-team Consensus All-Americans, including 27 Unanimous selections, and 500 NFL draft picks, most all-time by any university, the Trojans also have had more players drafted in the first round than any other university, with 80 as of the 2017 draft. USC has had 34 members inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, including former players Matt Leinart, O.J. Simpson, and Ronnie Lott and former coaches John McKay and Howard Jones. The Trojans boast 12 inductees in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the second-most of any school, including Junior Seau, Bruce Matthews, Marcus Allen, and Ron Yary.
The Trojans have 52 bowl appearances, 39 of which are among the New Year’s Six Bowls. With a record of 34–18, USC has the highest all-time post-season winning percentage of schools with 25 or more bowl appearances.
The Trojans play their home games in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, located across the Exposition Park Rose Garden from USC’s University Park, Los Angeles campus.
USC first fielded a football team in 1888. Playing its first game on November 14 of that year against the Alliance Athletic Club, USC achieved a 16–0 victory. Frank Suffel and Henry H. Goddard were playing coaches for the first team which was put together by quarterback Arthur Carroll, who in turn volunteered to make the pants for the team and later became a tailor. USC faced its first collegiate opponent the following year in fall 1889, playing St. Vincent’s College to a 40–0 victory.
In 1893, USC joined the Intercollegiate Football Association of Southern California (the forerunner of the SCIAC), which was composed of USC, Occidental College, Throop Polytechnic Institute (Cal Tech), and Chaffey College. Pomona College was invited to enter, but declined to do so. An invitation was also extended to Los Angeles High School.
Before they were named Trojans in 1912, USC athletic teams were called the Methodists (occasionally the “Fighting Methodists”), as well as the Wesleyans. During the early years, limitations in travel and the scarcity of major football-playing colleges on the West Coast limited its rivalries to local Southern Californian colleges and universities. During this period USC played regular series against Occidental, Caltech, Whittier, Pomona and Loyola. The first USC team to play outside of Southern California went to Stanford University on November 4, 1905, where they were trampled 16–0 by the traditional West Coast powerhouse. While the teams would not meet again until 1918 (Stanford dropped football for rugby union during the intervening years), this was also USC’s first game against a future Pac-12 conference opponent and the beginning of its oldest rivalry. During this period USC also played its first games against other future Pac-12 rivals, including Oregon State (1914), California (1915), Oregon (1915), Arizona (1916) and Utah (1915-1917, 1919).
Between 1911–1913, USC followed the example of California and Stanford and dropped football in favor of rugby union. The results were disastrous, as USC was soundly defeated by more experienced programs while the school itself experienced financial reverses; it was during this period that Owen R. Bird, a sportswriter for the Los Angeles Times, coined the nickname “Trojans”, which he wrote was “owing to the terrific handicaps under which the athletes, coaches and managers of the university were laboring and against the overwhelming odds of larger and better equipped rivals, the name ‘Trojan’ suitably fitted the players.”